Today's news

March 19, 2007

Disabled Aids virus could provide cure for cystic fibrosis
A modified version of the virus that causes Aids could become the basis of a prenatal gene therapy for cystic fibrosis, new research has suggested. British scientists have discovered that a form of HIV, adapted to be harmless, is a promising vector for ferrying replacement genes into the lungs of affected foetuses. Experiments at University College London have already shown that the modified virus can infect the lung tissue of unborn mouse pups, suggesting it could be used to correct the genetic defects that cause cystic fibrosis. The virus could potentially be engineered to carry working copies of the gene which, when it goes wrong, causes the devastating lung condition. It would then be used to infect foetuses known to be affected by the disease before they were born.
The Times

Scientists develop emotional robots that bond with humans
Robots that bond like human children and display emotion are being developed at Hertfordshire University. The £1.68 million Feelix Growing Project, a global partnership of robotic experts, psychologists and neuroscientists, aims to produce machines that can engage emotionally with humans. Like children, they will form attachments with their human handlers. They will also display "emotional resonance" - an ability to mimic people's emotions to enhance positive bonding. Feelix is an acronym of Feel, Interact, eXpress.
The Independent

Computer car-racing games can help cause accidents, study shows
Computer games featuring the thrills and spills of car racing could be helping cause of real-life road accidents, a study suggests. Psychologists found motor-race game fans were more likely to drive aggressively when they got behind a real wheel, and be involved in crashes. Less frequent virtual racing was associated with more cautious driving. Researchers also showed that after playing just one virtual racing game, men took greater risks in critical traffic situations on a computer simulator. The findings are evidence that playing racing games can result in riskier motoring, say the German scientists.
The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

Solved: sum that adds up to a big zero
For four years they have locked themselves away in their laboratories, poring over some of the most abstract calculations known to mankind. But today 18 leading mathematicians will emerge, blinking, into the public glare, to tell the American Institute of Mathematics that they have mapped E8, one of the most complicated mathematical structures. E8 is an example of a Lie (pronounced “lee”) group. The brainchild of Sophus Lie, a 19th-century Norwegian mathematician, Lie groups explain the manner in which symmetrical objects could be rotated while still looking the same.
The Times

Italian jewel will offer wider view of Hermitage treasures
The Hermitage in St Petersburg which is struggling to display or even catalogue its vast collection of art treasures, is to establish a satellite branch in Italy as its "window on the West". The treasures will be housed in the 14th-century Castello Estense, the jewel at the heart of Ferrara. A palazzo and park will also be restored to provide a residential study centre for Italian and Russian art experts.
The Times

Letters
University scheme undermines family values and freedom.
The Daily Telegraph

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • Universities are split over family background checks. The Financial Times
  • University education could cost an arm and a leg. The Daily Telegraph

Sunday

  • Music gives university candidates vital edge on places. The Sunday Telegraph
  • Student housing is becoming more expensive. The Mail On Sunday

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